Art on Tuesday: Reading a Letter

This young courtesan is reading a very long letter while she is sitting on a veranda. The paper door in the background is open, so that you can see a cherry tree in full bloom.
At the bottom a cat is playing with the right end of the paper roll. This ukiyo-e was painted by Torii Kiyomitsu 鳥居清満 (1735-1785). The name of the picture is 文を読む遊女と猫 (courtesan reading a text/letter and a cat). His style reminds me of Suzuki Harunobu 鈴木 春信 (1725-1770) for example see his picture named Viewing the moon or Fishing on the Sumida River.

(source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston).

Art on Tuesday: Misty Spring

Torii Kotondo 鳥居言人 (1900-1976) painted this Japanese woman in a typical way of the so-called 美人画 bijin-ga (picture of beautiful woman) in 1933. The young lady wears a purple kimono with simple outlines of flowers and diverse flower patterns on the obi. Contrast colors are to be seen on the inside of her dress and her headdress.  Cherry blossom leaves shaped as little hearts are falling like snow. You see her from the right side. She is looking at something or someone outside of the picture frame. Maybe she is dreaming of love.

This ukiyo-e reminds me of the Maiko in Spring by Kitano Tsunetomi 北野 恒富 (1880-1947) painted in 1931 presented in an older post as https://japankaleidoskop.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/art-on-tuesday-maiko-in-spring/

Art on Tuesday: Dance

Katsukawa Shunsen 勝川 春扇 (1762-1830) made this triptych named
Three Actors in Beautiful Costumes Performing a Religious Dance around 1785. Due to the age of the picture the colors are bleached.

Three actors are performing a ritual dance. The actor in the centre is dressed like a samurai with two swords. He is holding an ugly puppet-like mask in his left hand. In his right hand a short knife threatening to stab the evil puppet. He looks at the woman on the left. Maybe this is a purifying gesture as of getting rid of an evil spirit or a hunting ghost.

The two female dancers on both sides of the central actor are moving apart from him in mirroring directions. They are playing flutes. The woman dressed in black holds her flute as if she is stabbing into her heart. On the contrary the dancer on the right  presents her flute leisurely whereas she is dressed in spring colors and floral patterns.

Given that it is a picture in three parts it is obvious the female dancers are the same person getting through a crisis symbolized in this play. One can read it also as generally symbolizing the circle of nature’s death and growth, winter and spring.

The stage is made of draped cloth placed somewhere in a garden – like in a temple or shrine. Behind the linen screen stands a musical instrument, probably a drum called 釣り太鼓 (tsuridaiko) like the one of the ukiyo-e by Gakutei Yashima 岳亭 八島 (1786 ?–1868) previously shown in Art on Tuesday: Concert.

 

(source: metmuseum.org)

Art on Tuesday: Cherry Blossom Time

A spring scene with cherry blossom trees in full bloom painted by Utagawa Hiroshige I (歌川 広重, 1797–1858). This ukiyo-e gives a good impression of the crowded streets in the pleasure quarters at daytime. Two groups of geishas are entering the street from the right and the left, given shelter from the sunlight by huge umbrellas. Here they are visiting the Yoshiwara district in Edo. This picture is named Cherry Blossom Time at Naka-no-chô in the Yoshiwara 吉原仲の町桜時 as a part of the series Famous places in Edo (source: Museum of Fine Arts in Boston).

Art on Tuesday: Mishima Pass

The Mishima Pass in Kai Province by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, picture no. 29, painted in the early 1830’s. In the centre you see a huge cryptomeria tree 杉 (sugi), which is a typical Japanese tree mostly growing at buddhist temples or shinto shrines. Three wanderers are hugging the trunk of this big tree full of joy. The man on the left is taking a break and is smoking a pipe. Three other people are taking the way down the hill. In the background you see Mount Fuji with a blue top with little white clouds. The weather is fine. 

Art on Tuesday: Monkey Bridge

monkey2

This is a woodblock print of the Monkey Bridge 猿槁 in the Kai Province 甲斐國 made by Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川 広重 (1797-1858) in 1841/42. The old bridge is located in the Yamanashi Prefecture and was rebuilt in 1984. You find more interesting pictures of the Sarubashi Bridge here.

Art on Tuesday: Jumping Down Kiyomizu-dera

harunobu_0916

This girl is jumping down from the veranda of  Kiyomizu-dera, the temple of pure water, located in Kyôto. If she survives, her wish will be granted. Actually several people jumped down here during the Edo period, but it was pretty dangerous. The ukiyo-e was painted by Suzuki Harunobu 鈴木 春信 (1725-1770).

清水寺 is still one of the most famous temples in Japan, founded in 778 and belongs to the New Seven Wonders of the World. You will get an impressive view of the temple on their Japanese website.

Art on Tuesday: Rain

night-rain-on-oyama

What looks like a very modern Japanese woodblock print was made by Utagawa Toyokuni II ‪歌川豊国 (2代目)‬(1777-1835) in 1830. Night Rain on Oyama is a beautiful landscape ukiyo-e of his series Eight Famous Views of Kanagawa.

Art on Tuesday: Bonfire

Sadanobu2

Hasegawa Sadanobu I 長谷川貞信 (1809-1879) painted this ukiyo-e ca. 1870/71 named 如意嶽大文字. It is a landscape picture of the Nyoigatake mountain area in Kyôto. The tradition of bonfire is widely known in Japan until today, as seen in pictures here. The biggest bonfire in Japan is held on top of the Daimonji-yama in the shape of the Japanese character 大 meaning “big”.

The picture is part of a collection at the  Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Art on Tuesday: Shower at Ume Bridge

 

Sadanobu1Hasegawa Sadanobu I 長谷川貞信 (1809-1879) painted a picture of the Ume Bridge (Plum Bridge) in Ôsaka. It is a charming scene of a summer day and all of a sudden there is rain pouring down (北新地梅之橋白雨). Funny how Sadanobu draw various people hiding under their umbrellas rushing into different directions seeking shelter. Only the boatman in the center of the picture is calmly rowing his boat further on. It is a view of a typical Japanese town. The scene becomes lively through the moving people and the use of fresh colors. Using shades of blue for the stone walls and the river, contrasting color of pink for partly wooden fronts as well as for the people and parts of the umbrellas. The rain is visualized by simple strokes. 梅雨 (tsuyu) literally means “plum rain” and is used for the rainy season in Japan. Sadanobu makes use of this expression in this picture.

You find more detailed information about this woodblock print at the website of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.